Show, Don’t Tell

Matthew 7:16-17: “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”


I have a pet peeve.  When my children disobey me (and let’s be realistic, it’s going to happen), they try to apologize thinking that will make things all better.  That’s okay for minor infractions but for the tough stuff, I don’t want to hear a half-hearted, “I’m sorry,” with no action to back it up.  I want to see them really making an effort to change their behavior.  Everyone has something they have to work on.  When my kids blow off the hard work of making necessary changes in their life while thinking an appropriately placed, “I’m sorry” here or there will fix everything, they are mistaken.  I am much happier as their mom not hearing anything and instead seeing honest-to-goodness effort while they move in the right direction.

Does that mean I want perfection?  No.  I wouldn’t ask for mastery from them when I have daily, hourly, sometimes minute-to-minute struggles myself.  I just want to see progress.  So, in those instances when they try to get lazy and throw the old, “I’m sorry,” out there, my response is, “Show me, don’t tell me.”  I want to see a change, I don’t want to hear empty words.

What about my own life, though?  Do I put effort into making things right with my husband, my parents, my best friend, or the woman whose feelings I hurt from church?  An off-handed, “sorry” doesn’t cut it when they need to see honest-to-goodness effort from me.  It’s hard to expect that kind of action from my kids if I’m offhandedly saying, “sorry” to my husband about overdrawing the checking account for the third time this year without changing my spending habits.  Or what about the, “Oops” I gave to my parents when I walked in three hours later than planned, with no phone call, after they had graciously offered to watch my kids during some “me” time?  How about cancelling for the fifth time in a row on my best friend with only a cursory “something came up” as an explanation?

If I’m not going to let my own kids off the hook for their actions but actually make them take responsibility, then I better be setting that same example in my own life.  Again, perfection isn’t required, but taking action steps in the right direction is.

Think about what your home life and friendships could look like if everyone took responsibility for their own actions and made a serious effort to change the things that needed attention.  That’s the kind of lifestyle I’m moving toward.

God Knew

Psalm 139:16: “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (NIV)

The more I get to know God, the more verses in the Bible I fall in love with.  They are like a message written directly to me.  Lately, I have been able to share with several friends the reassurance I feel when I think about the fact that nothing can occur in my life that God didn’t already know was going to happen long before I was born.  That thought might not comfort others, but it does me, and this is why.

I might be going through some really rough stuff.  I might be experiencing what seems like problems from every angle, but ultimately, I can rest in the middle of it all because nothing is happening in my life that God didn’t already know would occur.  He saw the pain and suffering and heartache that I was going to experience years before I was even alive.  And, because of that, I can rest assure that He has also seen the ending.  That is the part that gives me peace.

I have a Heavenly Father who loves me so much (there are countless verses in the Bible that reassure me of His love, even when or maybe especially when, I fail the most) that He already has the outcome to my worst possible moments solved.  That might be why, especially within the last year, it’s been easier and easier for me to hand my problems over to God instead of keeping them tucked close.  My first response might still be to worry when presented with the challenge, but I am quicker to hand my circumstances over to God and take my hands off.  You see, He already knows the outcome.  He already has read the final chapter of the book of my life and He knows the ending.  God allows free will, but He definitely has a hand in orchestrating the ending of the book for me, especially if I ask.  I can have peace that, according to Romans 8:28, “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV).

Now, I’m no one special.  What He is willing to do for me, He wants to do for you too.  As I have said in the past, the God I serve is a gentleman and He is patient, so it’s up to you to take that first step.  It’s your choice to invite Him into your life and ask Him to help orchestrate the problems and trials and struggles that He already knew about, long before you were born.  What are you waiting for?  I know I for one would rather have the author of my life be the God of the Universe than just relying on myself.  I make too many typos and grammatical errors to want to be in charge.


Celebrating Grandparents

II Timothy 1:5: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”

In honor of Grandparents Day, I wanted to take time to thank grandparents who invest in the lives of their grandchildren and help make the lives of their children easier with that investment.

When I was growing up, we moved frequently so I didn’t have the privilege of living by either set of grandparents. I was blessed to see them about once a year but otherwise, we had to make do with phone calls and snail mail. My sister and I were incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful family adopt us and I still consider them my grandparents today. They stepped in and filled a need in our lives, accepting us as one of their own. (Love you, Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop!)

My children, however, are blessed to have both sets of grandparents close by to spoil them. This includes taking them out to eat, playing games, doing crafts and messy art projects, marathon videogame sessions, rewards for reading, and of course, plenty of one-on-one attention.

Grandparents are unique because they help fill in the gaps since parents just can’t do it all. They usually have a little more time to go at a slower pace and have the wisdom of years to help positively influence the youngest generation.

My husband and I are doubly blessed because not only do our parents reach out to our kids, but they extend their love to us as well. We have received help with chores around our house, yummy meals, financial help at exactly the time it was needed, and most of all, prayer support. My mom volunteers her time and energy twice a week to come play with our littlest so I can have a few hours of uninterrupted time to work. My mother-in-law makes family dinners at least once a week so we all have a chance to slow down and catch up on each other’s lives. My father is known as the “Veggie Tale, Pop-Pop” as for years he kept our kids stocked with all the Veggie Tale movies. And, Papa is known for maintaining a pool he never swims in just so his grandkids can cool off on a hot summer day.

One of the biggest blessings my mother-in-law continues to give me is that she purposefully uses language when talking about my husband, her son, that honors my place as his wife. I have never felt like I had to compete for his affection or that we were in competition. We are team. I strive to pass on that same gift when our sons marry. Our family has never had to deal with the stereotypical “in-laws,” on either side. My mother has blessed me by providing a godly example while I was growing up so that I can in turn teach my children that the mother is the heart of the home. I know that I am not providing as good of an example as she did for me, but I keep trying.

So, today, I want to honor our parents, my children’s grandparents, as well as my biological and adopted grandparents. Without their love, support, and positive influence, our lives would not be as rich as they are today.   We love you Mom and Dad, and Mom and Dad!

Sibling Bonds

Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” (NIV)

With public school officially starting this week in Michigan, many are replacing their somewhat slower-paced summer schedules with the busyness of school, sports, and church activities.  Some are just returning to the same schedule they had last year while others are starting a new stage in their household:  Five-year-old’s beginning Kindergarten, upper elementary transitioning to middle school, and eighth graders last spring are now freshman this fall.

Our household has changed as well.  Even though my school-aged kids don’t have any major life transitions this time around, their youngest brother is experiencing a huge shift.  Last fall when they went back to school, he was still taking two naps a day and content to play in the same room where I worked, in a little fenced-in area.  His world wasn’t very big, but he was happy.

However, this past summer the gate was taken down, he transitioned from two naps to one, and he moved from his crib to a toddler bed.  Through all these changes, he really bonded with his older brother and sister.  He is still able to play by himself relatively well, but he really misses their company.  He is not his usual happy self.

Reflecting back, I can see why he is more sad than normal.  They not only spent a lot of time with him this summer, but they were very influential in his life.  Our oldest helped him get over his fear of insects and showed him how much fun “wrestling” can be while our daughter taught him fun games like “school, house, dress up (he was always the Superhero), and grocery store.”  They both sat and read to him for hours.  Our son was the most creative in getting him to lay down for his nap, and our daughter helped him fine-tune his bathroom skills.  They both helped him create great infrastructures with Lego’s as well as formed a rock band to entertain their dad and me.  He also loved helping them complete their chores, even though his “help” sometimes added to the work.  In addition to that, though, they taught him the importance of siblings, of being there for each other, helping each other out, and just plain enjoying each other’s company.  They started to build the foundation of lifelong friendship that I pray will continue as they get older.  That is something that as his mom, I can’t really teach him in the same way, with the same impact.

That got me thinking about my own sister.  She is an amazing older sister who did the very same things for me.  She was the creative one in our family and is whom I credit with planting the seed of storytelling which has blossomed into what may someday be a career in writing fiction.  My husband is the one whom I credit for encouraging my dream, but my sister is the one who started me down the path of creating stories in my head.  Even though we don’t get together nearly as often as I would like, that foundation was laid and is still there.  I treasure her friendship and positive impact in my life.

I am confident that our littlest will eventually get used to his new routine of one nap per day and entertaining himself again while his brother and sister are at school.  In the meantime, I’m so thankful for the fact that summers have lazier schedules which allow for more family togetherness and time to create the building blocks of sibling bonds.

True Leadership

Titus 1:9: “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose.”


I had the privilege of watching two very different forms of leadership lately.  Both were for the same event but presented in completely opposite ways.  One had a way of drawing the audience into the experience while encouraging participation that was comfortable and natural.  The other type tried to force certain forms and styles out of the audience that weren’t natural or comfortable to all in attendance.  Instead of drawing the group of people together, it appeared to almost divide them.  Now, I’m sure that the second scenario I described works well in certain situations, but in the audience that I attended, it was not received positively.

That got me thinking…Being a great leader is a gift.  I don’t consider myself a very effective one.  If I were to describe myself, I’m happy to be a follower 99% of the time (which is why I’m very choosy about who I pick to follow).   However, when I signed on to the role of mom, I essentially became a leader, whether I wanted to or not.  And therefore, I have a choice of which kind of leader I’m going to be.

I want to be the first kind of leader described.  I want to encourage my children to follow my example while still being free to express themselves in their own, unique ways.  There are certain rules that are unbending, but they are welcome to bring their own “flare” to our family; in fact, it’s quite welcome and could be quite refreshing.  I want to be someone who brings out the best in people, who takes a family of different personalities and tastes and opinions and somehow has the ability to blend them all together so that pure harmony is heard (the majority of the time at least).

I realize that’s a pretty big bucket list.  If I work on just a few things like patience, having a sense of humor, accepting and loving my family for who they are, not trying to fit anyone into a certain mold, and blending all our differences into a song that is uniquely “us”, imagine the leader I will be.

As the new school year starts this week for Michigan, I want to model the correct kind of leadership in our home.  Maybe that will rub off on my kids and they will in turn positively influence those around them, instead of be willing to follow anyone, anywhere.

That’s my goal – what leadership traits are you wanting to bring to your family?  Because, as the mother (or father) of your household, that’s exactly what you are!

Sometimes You Just Need Chocolate

“Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?”(C.S. Lewis).

Ever been looking forward to an exciting adventure, only to have it derailed at the last minute, due to an illness or injury which forced you to change your plans?  What about working hard on your resume and job searching for months, only to be rejected time after time?

Sometimes life doesn’t go the way we planned.  Sometimes we have to completely rearrange our schedules, start over from scratch, or keep plugging away when we are bone-weary tired.

There are many reasons that happens.  Sometimes God is trying to get our attention, nudging us gently to go in the right direction when we’ve veered off course.  Sometimes we need to stay the course, developing perseverance instead of expecting instant gratification.  Other times, we have done nothing wrong and it’s just the result of living in a sinful world, dealing with little annoyances that everyone faces from time to time.

I have found that after giving my worries over a particular situation to God, asking Him to show me His will for my life, I sometimes still feel sad.  There is still sometimes that disappointment, hopelessness, and maybe even a little anger over my situation.

I’m going to be on the lookout for those in my life who might need a little extra encouragement.  You never know, maybe if I offer a hug and a little brownie therapy, I might just be able to raise their spirits.

Who in your life might need a little extra encouragement lately?  What can you do to help ease their burden and let them know you care?

The Great Debate – Part II

Proverbs 1:8: “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

Last time we talked about how important it is to teach our kids to obey our authority which teaches them to obey God’s ultimate authority.  Today I want to talk about the other side of the story.

Yes, I firmly agree that there are times when our children need to just obey – without arguing, whining, debating, manipulating.  However, there are other times when listening to their opinions and asking them how to solve an issue might grow their independence, reasoning skills, and learning responsibility.

I’m talking about the non-life-and-death situations.  There are certain nonnegotiable items in life, but there are also lots of gray areas.  As a parent, I’m learning that it’s important to distinguish between the two while our kids are still young, so that when they hit middle and high school and their independence really needs to blossom, these skills will already be in place.  For a “semi-control freak” like myself, this is sometimes a hard lesson to teach.

It’s important to look at the big picture.  As the parent, you want certain things done in a certain timeframe.  For instance, chores need to be completed before your kids participate in a fun activity, they need to be relatively clean and presentable (including shower, appropriate clothes, hair and teeth brushed), and they need to learn how to make appropriate decisions in a variety of situations.  But…can’t the end result look different for each family and possibly even for each family member?

Taking into consideration that each child is an individual, isn’t it acceptable to allow one child to do his chores in the morning because he wakes up fresh and ready to tackle the day but give the other child a chance to slowly greet the morning and still have hers done by lunchtime?  Is it super important to take a shower at night, or can one child take their shower in the morning as long as there is enough time to catch the bus?  Yes, there are certain clothes for certain situations, but within that boundary, isn’t it more important that your child work on his or her own sense of style while still living under your roof, and give time for a child to experiment with individual taste before that all important job interview?  And isn’t it more important that your child came up a solution, unique to him and his situation, that you agree with, when dealing with the bully, the awkward social situation, or the problem with friends?

If really listened to, and encouraged to sometimes think outside the box (which means we, as parents, need to be willing to step outside the box too), our kids can come up with some creative solutions to their own situations and maybe some of our sticky situations too.

I encourage you today to really listen and ask your child once in a while to solve a particular challenge.  I am learning in my own family that there is more than one way to stack groceries, clean a house, or cook dinner.  And you know what…I’m enjoying the change as well as seeing the pride in my kids when they realize they are listened to and their ideas are considered worthwhile.  That, in all honestly, is the main reward.

The Great Debate – Part I

II John 1:6: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands…”

Argue…debate…rationalize…manipulate.  I think we could agree that most families are made up of at least one child (if not more) than does this a little bit better than the rest.  When given a direction, instead of just saying, “Yes, mom,” and fulfilling the request, a long list of reasons why it should be done later, shouldn’t be done at all, or how it could be done better follows.

One of the characteristics my husband and I stress in our household is that by obeying your parents, you are in reality learning how to obey God, our ultimate authority.  One of the reasons we stress that rule is so that I have the assurance in an emergency and my children needed to stop or be quiet when I tell them to, they will obey first, ask questions later.  By obeying my authority right then, it could very well mean my children avert a disaster instead of getting hurt or even worse.

Isn’t it like that sometimes in our relationship with God?  He gives us clear guidelines in the Bible for our own good.  The rules in the Bible aren’t there because He was bored one day and needed something to do.  No, the rules are there to help us live a purposeful, fulfilling, and at least as much as possible, peaceful life here on Earth.  He put them there for our own good.  It is our responsibility to obey first, ask questions later.

But how many of us actually do that?  How many of us, in reality, are willing to step out in faith and just obey God?  Yes, it’s easy to follow the Big rules:  Don’t murder, Don’t steal, Don’t commit adultery.  What about the little rules?  Are we really following those when we are jealous of our friend’s 3000 square foot house compared to our 1500 square foot house?  What about when we rationalize that taking office supplies from work and using them at home for your kid’s school project really isn’t stealing – it’s owed to you?  Lastly, what about when we fudge on the time sheet a little bit, since “no one will notice anyway.”

My challenge today is twofold.  First of all, as parents, we need to teach our children how to obey our authority, so that in turn they get lots of practice to obey God, their ultimate authority.  And second, how about examining your life and asking God to show you one area where you need to maybe say, “Yes, God, I will obey” more instead of rationalizing, manipulating, debating, or arguing the situation.  You just might find that you feel more peace as a result of that decision.  Try it and then let me know.

Everybody’s Different

Romans 12:6-8: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

We have a saying in our household, “Everyone’s different.”  That helps in many different situations – From explaining why dad is great at listening and mom doesn’t seem to stop talking, why some people like to play sports and others are more musically inclined, and why some use their inside voice consistently and others are so loud earplugs are needed 24/7.

My husband and I fit into that mold too.  There are many ways in which we are similar, but in other ways our differences complement each other.  He is rational and thinks things through before making an informed, responsible decision.  I am emotional and led by my heart.  He grounds me and helps me see the big picture while I am caught up in the feelings and emotions of a situation.

That got me thinking about our unique approach to life and how I feel that men and women respond quite differently.  I think for the most part, (not true for everyone), that women are great at multitasking.  I know for myself that if I don’t have at least two or three things going at the same time, I can get bored.  My brain was made to juggle multiple things.  There is such a thing as sensory overload even for me, but overall, I can handle multiple crisis without breaking too much of a sweat.  And, when I have a looming project to do, I would rather push through and get it all completed, and then I truly relax.  If I quit in the middle, I continue to think about what’s left and worry until I have it completely finished.

In my opinion, men approach things differently.  They work better focusing on one job at a time.  And, they seem more able to take breaks in between, even stopping for the night, picking up where they left off the next day.

I think there are advantages to both ways of living life.  I can handle the day-to-day little crises that naturally come up with children in the home.  For me, balancing working from home, laundry, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping all with children helping or underfoot comes naturally.  My husband, on the other hand, tackles a job and I have confidence that it has his undivided attention and will be completed well.  It doesn’t take rocket science to fold laundry while listening to my daughter tell me about her day, but when constructing the fence for the garden, if the measurements are off, well…you get the picture.

We can both still learn from each other.  My husband is teaching me that it’s okay to take breaks occasionally, starting again after I have renewed my batteries.  And, I’m a good example to our kids about pushing through and finishing something before enjoying the reward.

What’s your style and how can you positively influence someone else?

Why Now?

Jeremiah 29:12-13: “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”  (NIV)

 We have a saying in our house that is used quite regularly, “Everybody has issues.”  Usually this reminder is needed when someone has just received a consequence for a particular action and is feeling down on him or herself.  The reminder is given that just because he or she is dealing with a particular “issue” at that point in time doesn’t mean that he or she is singled out.  Wait a few minutes and I’m sure someone else’s “issue” will rear its ugly head, needing to be dealt with.

Whether married or single, childless or with a household of children, everyone has issues.  Because we live in a sinful world, we can’t escape that fact.  Some of us try to hide our issues, some succeed for a period of time before they reappear, sometimes bigger and worse than the original “issue.”  Some people add to their “issues” by creating more “issues,” adding addictions to try and forget about the “issues.”  Either way, until the “issues” are dealt with head on, they will remain “issues” and will continue to wreak havoc in your life.

Do you ever get frustrated when you think you have positively dealt with your “issues” and life has returned to normal only to discover that there is another level, another layer of the original “issue” that needs to be dealt with?  Do you ever feel helpless that it will never be fully resolved?

In my opinion, the only way to effectively deal with the “issues” that we all have in one form or another is to bring them to God and ask Him to show us how He wants the “issue” dealt with.  You may think you have the perfect solution, but in actuality, unless He is involved in the solution, it will probably keep coming back in new and different ways.

Another perspective to think about is this:  Did you ever think about praising God for the “issue” that you are dealing with?  Has anything positive come out of having to deal with your particular “issue” in life?    God tells us in I Thessalonians 5:18, “…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (NIV)  There is a reason for that.  God wants us to praise Him so that we can see the good in all things.  Even bad situations can have good components.  When viewed correctly, our “issues” can bring us closer to God because He is always available, just waiting for us to reach out to Him, asking for His strength instead of relying on our own.  Sometimes having “issues” to deal with allows us to be more compassionate to others when we see them struggling with their own “issues.”  Other times the very “issues” that God brings us through are exactly what He then uses in us to help others struggling with the same “issues.”  We may always carry a little bit of the “issue” with us, but that serves as a good reminder for the journey we were on, another reason to thank God for bringing us through.

So…since everyone has “issues,” I invite you to hand yours over to God and see what wonderful things He can do in your particular situation.  Just watch – He will!